"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up… Although one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." – Ecclesiastes 4:10, 12
I vividly remember the day I first caught a glimpse that healing from Dave's impurity might come as a couple. On our weekly drives to meet with a church counselor, we read Harry Schaumburg's book, False Intimacy, out loud together. On one of those days, his words jarred me:
"If you are dealing with your marriage partner's sexual addiction, it's my prayer that you will examine your heart, challenge the fortress of self-protection and evidences of false intimacy in your own life, and allow yourself to be drawn closer to a personal relationship with God." – p. 129
Anger flushed through my body from head to toe. How dare Schaumburg insinuate that I contributed to the heartache in our marriage. After all, I was the innocent one – the one sinned against. It took a great amount of self-control not to heave the book into the back seat.
But in reality, these words revealed my own coping mechanisms:
- Fear. If I admitted I might have fault, Dave might not take responsibility for his own sin.
- Control. My indignation seemed the best way to keep Dave from heaping even more hurt on my already battered heart.
- Bitterness. Blaming Dave kept me a safe distance from addressing my own needs – forgiveness, repairing trust and mending broken spots from my childhood.
Not too much later, convicted by the Holy Spirit's continual nudges, I committed to a recovery program for wives of sexual addicts. And, as I started attending groups, reading books and talking to other women going through similar hardships, a critical transition occurred. Recovery had now become our journey. A battle we would win together.
When I began making difficult changes in my own life, Dave's respect for me soared. He felt freer to open up about his battles – victories and defeats. Discussions that previously erupted in anger now turned into a discussion of each other's feelings and needs. And, I began to see a new look in his eyes, a tender hope that I've since seen grow into a deep spiritual confidence.
Understanding the Journey
"Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement." – 2 Corinthians 2:7, NLT
Whether a spouse is fighting an addiction, depression or even a deeply engrained character flaw, we sometimes find ourselves in one of two extremes. We either seek to control, cover-up or compensate (becoming over-embroiled in their battles), or we distance ourselves from their struggles, communicating by our words and actions, "This is your battle. You fix it!"
The balance is found in understanding God's commitment to bring good to your life and to your marriage (Romans 8:28) through whatever difficulty you are facing. From my personal experience, this might include God's work of:
- Addressing deficits. As a sensitive child, I learned to manage how others saw me through over-achieving. Through recovery, I learned to reach to God alone for security and approval.
- Applying healing. Mourning our losses in our marriage taught me to mourn other losses as well. I found myself grieving more, but then surrendering and entrusting those losses to God.
- Achieving spiritual growth. Recovery meant learning to own my feelings and needs, and communicate them without embarrassment before my husband, others and God.
I finally realized that by refusing to help defend our marriage (and insisting that I'd wake up one morning and the fairy tale would be back and thriving), I was leaving my husband and brother in Christ more likely to be overcome by discouragement.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." – Isaiah 43:2
If I had refused to acknowledge my own need for help, I would have missed a journey that wasn't just Dave's to take. God was standing by, lovingly holding out His hand, beckoning for me to follow. Were there rivers of tears and fires of pain? Absolutely. But true to God's Word, I didn't drown. I wasn't even burned. Rather, as Christ led us on our journey of recovery, He gave us gifts we couldn't have imagined.
One of these gifts was the transformation of our sexual relationship from a battleground to a sanctuary.